Lately I have been having a lot of fermenting fails in my fermenting crock. At first, I figured that it was a bad batch of culture starter. I confirmed this after fermenting some carrots in a mason jar that also failed. So, I tossed the box of starter and started with a fresh box. Problem solved!
Nope. Not solved. I started fermenting some pickles with my new packet of starter and those failed as well. It is so sad to lift that lid and look in and find black mold and sad, disgusting pickles. People always ask me, “How will I know if my ferment is bad?” I always respond with, “You will know.” The smell, the mold, the look of everything makes you want to throw the whole crock away with everything in it!
After discovering my batch of pickles failed, I realized that my crock must be contaminated. The crock itself is glazed pottery. Easy to clean – just soap and water and allow it to dry thoroughly. However, the stones are not glazed. They are porous. Soap and water won't cut it if mold spores are living in those stones. I needed to do some heavy duty cleaning of those stones, for sure. I decided to clean the lid as well because the inside of my lid is not glazed, it is porous as well.
How to clean your fermenting crock
The first thing I did was set a gallon of water to boil. I added 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the water. I boiled the lid and the stones for at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I heated my oven to 400 degrees. Once the stones and lid had finished boiling, I placed them into the preheated oven, directly on the oven racks. I closed the oven door and turned the oven off. I allowed the stones and lid to cool off with the oven.
I do not store my stones inside the crock. Instead, I invert the lid and place it on top of the crock. Then I set the stones inside the lid. This allows air to circulate over the stones and lid.
I don't clean my crock in this manner after every ferment. I usually just wash with soap and water. However, it would be good practice to do the deep down clean every so often. It is so sad to lose an entire batch of pickles or carrots or sauerkraut.
If you are finding that you aren't having much success with crock, you might want to clean your fermenting crock. It might be just what it needs.